In 1991, the EEOC began pilot mediation programs in four field offices (Philadelphia, New Orleans, Houston, and the Washington Field Office), and subsequently, pilot programs were established in all District offices. Based on the success of the pilots and the recommendations of its own ADR Task Force, the Commission concluded that mediation was a viable alternative to the traditional investigatory methods used by EEOC to resolve charges of employment discrimination, and that an ADR program should be implemented. In 1995, EEOC adopted its policy statement on ADR setting forth certain core principles for an ADR program. Following development of the program's operational framework in 1998, and receipt of start-up funding in its FY 1999 appropriation, EEOC's ADR mediation program was fully implemented in April 1999.
Since its inception, EEOC's mediation program has been highly successful in resolving charges of employment discrimination. Several studies have been conducted by independent researchers to evaluate the program's effectiveness and to identify potential improvements. One survey found that parties who participated in mediation were very satisfied with the process, and that 96% of employers and 91% of charging parties would use the mediation program again if offered. (See Studies of the EEOC Mediation Program). From 1999 through 2017, over 212,500 mediations have been held and over 153,400 charges, or over 72 % have been successfully resolved. (See EEOC Mediation Statistics FY 1999 through FY 2017).
EEOC's program uses a combination of internal mediators employed by EEOC and external contract mediators. Field offices may also use pro bono, or volunteer, mediators. All mediators are trained in both mediation and the laws enforced by EEOC. As neutrals, the mediators apply their knowledge and experience as facilitators to explore the underlying dispute and to achieve resolutions which are mutually satisfactory to both parties. While more traditional remedies may be explored in mediation, many mediations involve creative approaches to resolving the dispute which are designed to meet the needs and interests of the parties. In many cases a non-monetary benefit is the only benefit that changes hands.
EEOC offers mediation soon after the charge has been filed and prior to further investigation. EEOC evaluates each charge to see if it is appropriate for mediation. Charges which EEOC has determined to be without merit are not eligible for mediation. In most instances, charges which require additional investigation on the merits are eligible. The parties may request mediation, however, at any stage of the administrative process. In 2002, EEOC expanded its use of mediation to attempt resolution at the conciliation stage, after a finding of discrimination had been issued, in appropriate cases. Since 1999, EEOC has conducted a variety of outreach and training activities to educate the public, employers and persons protected by laws enforced by EEOC, about the mediation program.
EEOC has also implemented an initiative to further expand and promote the use of mediation and ADR. EEOC encourages employers to enter into Universal Agreements to Mediate (UAMs) at the local, regional or national levels. These UAMs facilitate an employer's agreement to mediate and expedite the mediation process by providing identified points of contact for EEOC and the employer for scheduling the mediation. "As of September 2017, there were 2,385 UAMs with local employees and 414 Regional and National UAMs, for a total of 2,799."